Millions of Beijingers are working from home on Monday after a fresh round of anti-COVID measures, giving the Chinese capital of 22 million people the appearance of a ghost town.
China has been facing its worst epidemic wave for two months since the first outbreak in early 2020.
Even if contamination numbers remain minimal around the world, the authorities strictly apply their zero-COVID policy and lock down entire cities as soon as some cases arise.
After Shanghai, the country’s most populous city, has been under lockdown since early April, Beijing has been under travel restrictions for a week and many public places (restaurants, cafes, gymnasiums, gyms, etc.) are closed.
On Monday, authorities severely restricted access to non-essential services in the capital’s busiest and most populous district, Chaoyang, where some businesses are forced to limit their normal workforce to 5%.
As a result, the busy Sanlitun business district in east Beijing was deserted as of Monday morning. The usually very busy Apple Store closed within minutes of opening.
“I’m not comfortable with so few people around,” a cleaner named Wang told AFP while waiting to enter the restaurant where she works.
“I’m responsible for disinfection, I can’t work from home.”
Beijing on Monday announced 49 new cases of contamination in the past 24 hours.
Elsewhere in Shanghai, the number of new infections fell to fewer than 4,000 on Monday after topping 25,000 in late April.
The current outbreak has also killed more than 500 people in Shanghai, according to an official report. The total for China has officially barely surpassed 5,000 since the pandemic began.
Some residents have expressed desperation after 40 days of detention, which were sometimes marked by supply problems.
Clashes broke out between residents and officials in body suits in Zhuanqiao District over the weekend, according to a video posted to social media.
“Police acted as quickly as possible to persuade onlookers to disperse and restore calm,” local authorities said.
“According to an on-site investigation, the troublemakers had enough to eat at home,” the same source assured.